Chapter 3.png
  • Will EU stand up to Canada on tar sands?

    Europe’s climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard is promising to stand firm on a growing battle between the EU and Canada over the environmental status of tar sand fuels. Reports last month said Canada was threatening to pull out of a wide-ranging trade deal with the EU if Brussels insisted on giving tar sands a higher carbon value than conventionally extracted oil, although the Canadians have since denied this.

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]The battle has arisen because the EU’s fuel quality directive commits fuel suppliers to reducing carbon emissions from fuel production by 6% between 2010 and 2020 – but to do this, the directive has to give ‘carbon values’ to fuels based on their greenhouse gas emissions. The Commission’s original proposal was for tar sands fuels to be given a value nearly 25% higher than petrol and diesel made from conventional oil, because tar sands fuels have to be extracted from sediment and this energy-intensive process causes a lot of carbon emissions.

    But Canada, the world’s leading producer of tar sands fuels, has objected to this climate differentiation, saying there is insufficient evidence to show tar sands oil is worse than conventional oil. It is believed to have threatened to walk away from a trade deal with the EU that is nearing completion – the Canadian government later denied this.

    Late last year, the Commission seemed to have given in to Canada’s pressure and opened ways to treat tar sands like conventional oil, but with Commission research published last month showing that the additional carbon value for tar sands is justified, Hedegaard is said to be willing to stand up to Canada. The Reuters news agency reported that she told a group of MEPs there was going to be a separate value for tar sands oil – the question was simply what it would be, and how quickly it would be decided.

    Reuters also quoted a Commission source as saying the strength of the EU’s position would depend on how robust it considered the science that shows extraction of tar sands oil to be more carbon-intensive than conventional oil. ‘We have to be careful not to pursue a policy that will punish tar sands based on public opinion rather than solid science,’ the source said, but T&E’s policy officer Nusa Urbancic said the science has been clear for a long time and there are ‘no more excuses’ for not acting.